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Joseph Towles

Joseph Towles

Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering & Bioengineering


  • Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, 2003
  • M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, 1998
  • B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1996


Following graduate school, I was a research post-doctoral fellow and subsequently a research scientist and then a research assistant professor in neuromuscular biomechanics in the Sensory Motor Performance Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at Northwestern University (2003-2012).  Additionally, I was a research health scientist for the Rehabilitation R&D Service in the Department of Veterans Affairs (Hines, IL) during that time and later a scientist in the neuromuscular biomechanics lab in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2012-2014).  At the time, I led projects that addressed the broad question of how to restore hand function (ability to grasp objects) following cervical spinal cord injury and hemiparetic stroke using experimental and computational techniques in biomechanics. As a complement to teaching within the undergraduate and graduate curricula in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2014-2018), and now teaching broadly within the undergraduate curricula of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering at Stanford, my current scholarship interest has shifted to engineering education.

Research Interests

Engineering education activities include student-centric course and curricular development, assessment of student learning & engagement, and innovation in approaches to enhance student learning

Professional Affiliations and Organizations

  • American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
  • Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)
  • American Society of Biomechanics (ASB)

Selected Publications/Presentations

Acuña, S. A., & Michaelis, J. E., & Roth, J. D., & Towles, J. (2018, June), Intervention designed to increase interest in engineering for low-interest, K-12 girls did so for boys and girls Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah.

Francis, C. A., & Michaelis, J. E., & Acuña, S. A., & Towles, J. (2017, June), Impact of biomechanics-based activities on situational and individual interest among K-12 students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio.

Towles, J., & Davis, J. G., & Frushour, B. (2017, June), Board # 16: Development of a Graduate Project Management Course Where Graduate Students Manage Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Design Teams (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio.

Francis, C. A., & Lenhart, R. L., & Franz, J. R., & Kaiser, J., & Towles, J. (2016, June), Work in Progress: Evaluation of Biomechanics Activities at a College-Wide Engineering Outreach Event Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27224

Hobbies and Interests

Most anything that involves family and friends